With this year’s longer Christmas and Intersemester break, many students are eagerly scoping out travel destinations. For most, this mystical location must be both exciting and affordable; yet, what if you don’t want to see another European city? Look no further than Marrakech, Morocco.
Just south of Spain, this North African country is accessible and cheap enough to entice anyone in Europe to its exotic shores. From flights to hostels, excursions to food, here is the low-down on the cultural high that is Morocco.
Round trip flights to Marrakech from Edinburgh will cost roughly £200; however, if you can get to Manchester Airport, Easy Jet can fly you out for less that £100 roundtrip.
Once in the city of Marrakech, you have two immediate options: old or new town. Old town Marrakech is home to most of the major tourist attractions like Djemaa el Fna, winding alleys of colorful open bazaars, and the Bahia Palace. The old town is where you should stay if you want to experience mosques calling people to prayer, the bustle of local life, and traditional housing. A bed in old town’s top-rated hostels will cost roughly £5 per night. The new town is a short walk away and is home to the central European-style shopping centre. With designer shops like Louis Vuitton and Gucci as well as swanky five star restaurants, the old town is where you want to be to experience luxury at a fraction of the price you would find in Europe. A stay in an up-scale hotel in new town costs between £70-£150 per night.
What to do:
There is no better way to take in Marrakech than by simply walking around. In the old town, you will entranced by the prices of opulent clothes and food, the classy European cafés and bookstores and the palm tree-lined walkways.
In the old town, you are guaranteed to get lost in the maze of souks but it is all part of Marrakech’s charm. Eventually, you’ll resurface from the covered market place with scarves, jewelry, and genie lamps. You’ll have no clue why you bought them but they were so inexpensive (if you bargain right), you’ll hardly think twice.
Spend some time in the Djemma al Fna after dark, having dinner at open dining stalls and trying local specialties like (prepare yourself) sheep’s head and lamb tagine. After dinner, see the snake charmers and musicians that crowd into the square, competing for the evening crowd. Of course, if you have the time, why not sign up for a two day camel excursion through the Sahara Desert? You’ll see it advertised everywhere and it is definitely worth the £50.
Tips and things to remember:
The prevalent languages in Morocco are Arabic and French but you can get by with English.
The currency is the Dirham and one pound is worth roughly six Dirham.
Morocco is an Islamic country so try to be respectful of the more conservative culture by keeping knees, shoulders, and cleavage covered—this will also keep you from being hit harassed by shopkeepers and locals alike.
Lastly, Marrakech is one of the craziest places you may ever see. You may be overwhelmed by the pace and intensity of it at first, but believe me when I say it grows on you.
Photo credit: Celeste Sloman